August 15, 2006

A Different Kind of Worship

This past Sunday for a variety of reasons we did not make it to our church service on time. We decided that by the time we got into the building and settled no one was going to get enough out of it so we adapted our plans. On the fly Serona and I decided to have a day of family worship in a rather non-traditional way.

We unveiled pieces of our plan to the kids as we went along starting out by explaining that we were going to have a day of expressing our thankfulness to God for his many blessings on our family and of learning about him in unusual places. The idea of the day was to contemplate and discuss the ways we learned about God in each place we were and to explain how that experience or location or activity made us thankful to Him.

As we were going to spend much of the day in the car because of the locations chosen worship music also became a central focus. Each family member took turns choosing worship music, some from the ipod, some from the radio and some from the kids favorite Wee Sing Bible songs tape. We often sang aloud the songs, other times we listened quietly and sometimes we talked about them.

We began at the MN landscape arboretum. The day was rainy so we did not actually get out of our car, rather we took a 3 mile drive through the park listening and looking and talking about what we saw. As you can guess this location was filled with thankfulness and realizations of God's creation. Some things that were noted and appreciated included a variety of birds, trees, small animals, colors, variety and beauty. We talked quite a bit about the color green and blue and how soothing they are and how that is no coincidence. We talked about the colorful palette used to paint the world and about the way little raindrops looked on the edges of leaves. It was a great way to start the day.

On our drive to the next location we talked about being thankful for things like cars, gasoline and airplanes. We talked about how much easier transportation is now than it was before and how much more opportunity and conveniences we have. We talked about electricity and the sun, roads and living near airports. The kids went around the car sharing something they were thankful for or loved about each of their siblings. These answers were tender and cute, from smiles to silly faces to the way they feel loved to being read books and playing games together. We also reflected on some of the music we listened to and how it made us feel and what we learned from it. We took moments to say small prayers of thank you and to our amazement our little idea seemed to be working.

Our next location was the MN history museum. Here we learned about people, our history and things that we have accomplished and learned over the years. We talked about the role God had in these things, we talked about the blessings of progress and after visiting the tornado room talked about having a respect for nature and a thankfulness for the continual protection we experience from hardship and disasters. Of course we also had a lot of fun just playing and learning together.

We headed over to the science museum but the line to get into the parking garage stretched two blocks long. Not seeing this as a positive sign of how crowded it would be inside we changed plans and headed over to the children's museum also in St. Paul.

At the children's museum we explored the new art exhibit talking about color and lines and the art. We talked about nature in the camping exhibit and about sharing as they had to share with other kids. They explored and enjoyed and it was fun to be a part of that with them. We realized at this museum that we had long since passed Sirah's naptime and had limited time left.

Serona took the older two through the mechanical and more scientific type exhibits while I took Sirah to play in the child sized grocery store and kitchen. She had fun exploring and getting to be "grown up" and each kid got to spend time doing more of what they would enjoy without worrying about if the other sibling was okay or happy, a nice change of pace.

We all reunited in the water exhibit which is always a favorite with all the kids. Sirah raced boats down a water slide, Rhiannon spent most of her time trying to make extremely large bubbles and Ciaran was most interested in making the balls make it all the way through the water tubes by holding your hand over different holes to control water pressure.

We talked a little about being thankful for water and for fun. We also talked about how thankful we were to have memberships and the generosity of family that allowed us to do so many wonderful things all in the same day for only the cost of parking. We talked about being thankful for family and headed back into the car. We made it through about one or two songs before all three kids were soundly asleep for the remainder of the car ride home.

We arrived at home and made homemade pizzas and watched a family movie together before bed. All in all it was a great way to spend a Sunday! The lessons of being thankful for all we have (which is so very much) and of being able to see God's hand and role in all different aspects of our lives really seemed to have made an impression on them. The lesson hit home and it was just so much fun to do so many different and fun things together as a family.

I think what made the day so successful was the contextual framework we as parents gave the kids to filter all the experiences of the day through. It really kept them thinking about what we wanted them to think about and it kept the day enjoyable and fun. Very few squabbles or problems despite the marathon of activities and long time spent in a car. We always had something to go back to or to frame our experiences and I can not think of two better themes to frame our day than thankfulness and finding God in all we did. This is fun and easy to do with your own kids just pick some of your favorite things to do and help them see what you want them to see in it, letting them discover and point out the obvious and overlooked things in what we so often simply take for granted.

Peace in Him,

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